Courts have ruled on what types of contact or “work” are permitted for employees who are on family and medical leave (known as “FMLA”) or other types of unpaid leave. To test your knowledge of what’s permissible, respond True or False to the following:
1. While on FMLA leave at home, George occasionally responds to your work emails, and phones co-workers to answer questions about work. George must be paid for those activities while on leave.
2. Susan goes on FMLA leave just before finishing an important report. You can ask Susan to spend a few unpaid hours to complete the report while on leave.
3. While on FMLA leave, Gerry completes a work project but doesn’t tell you he’s been working on it until after completion. Gerry doesn’t have to be paid for his work on the project.
1. False. Courts have ruled that “fielding occasional [questions] about one’s job while on leave is a professional courtesy that does not … interfere with the exercise of an employee’s FMLA rights.”
Of course, the definition of “occasional” is left open to interpretation, so such contact should be at a minimum.
2. False. Generally, courts draw the line when there’s “work product” involved. That is, if the employee is asked to actually produce something, that’s considered interference with FMLA leave.
3. True. Usually, when a supervisor doesn’t approve or request work done while an employee is on leave, there is no compensation or denial of FMLA rights.
Source: “The GSH 60-Second Memo.”